A radiographer, also known as an X-ray technician or technologist, X-rays any part of the body that a physician orders to be X-rayed. When the X-rays have been taken, the images are then sent to a radiologist to be read. A diagnosis is made from examining the X-rays, and further treatment is discussed between the patient and their physician.
A radiographer works one-on-one with the patient. They usually answer any questions a patient may have, and calm any apprehensions a patient may be experiencing. They are in charge of setting up the machine, showing the patient what position they need to stand or lie down in, and then proceeding to take the necessary images.
Being detail-oriented, and having patience are great qualities to have in this job. Images must be clear for the radiologist to look at, so the images must be taken without the patient moving their body. If the patient moves or breathes during the procedure, the images must be taken over again until they are done right.
There are important safety procedures that need to be followed when operating X-ray equipment. Radiographers often have a patient wear a radiation shield to protect them from harmful radiation, though this is not always possible or necessary for some procedures. The radiographer must also make sure to be behind a radiation shield when taking images.
Radiographers may work in a clinical setting, or a hospital, taking X-rays of patients on an outpatient basis. They may perform procedures needed during surgery, and should be prepared to work with people of all age groups. With technology growing at a rapid pace, job opportunities of working directly in a physician's office may begin to develop in the future.
More experienced radiographers may perform more complex procedures that involve injecting contrast agents within the patient's body so pictures can be taken to observe soft tissues. A radiographer has the ability to further his/her education and specialize in additional diagnostic imaging technologies called computerized tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A CT scan, or CAT scan, provides cross-sectional views on various parts of the body, while MRIs can build 2-D and 3-D maps of different tissues within the patient's body. These various types of X-rays are more detailed, and help the radiologist diagnose more serious conditions or diseases found inside the patient's body.
If a person chooses to become a radiographer, training programs are available that require one to four years of education. The educational requirements may vary from place to place when hiring, but most places look for someone who has acquired a Bachelor's degree or a Master's degree. Radiographers with extensive experience may become certified as a Radiologic Assistant through the American Registry of Radiologic Technicians. Becoming a Radiologic Assistant advances the role of the radiographer, and their responsibilities, also increasing their pay.